Recording with the Wu-Tang Clan member isn't out of the question, either. Formed in 2004, Budos Band's popularity shot up in the past year on the strength of their Afrobeat-fueled 2010 Daptone Records release Budos III as well as a relentless tour schedule that included a fiery set at last year's Outside Lands festival in San Francisco. Budos returns to S.F. for two nights at the Independent this weekend, after which, according to Tankel, the band plans to hit their favorite S.F. saloons. Tankel also gives us the run down on why Budos is not a "world music" band -- and why they are metalheads.
What's in store for your SF visit?
We're pretty excited to come and play two shows at the Independent. That's a first for us. For us, the best way to blow off steam when we're on tour is to go to the bar, have beer, hang out and let things settle. We definitely like San Francisco bars a lot and we have Sunday off to enjoy them. We'll probably go to the Toronado, Zeitgeist, and the Saloon on Grant and Green in North Beach. Or we might just stay close to the venue and go to The Page.
Does Budos get tagged as a world music band?
Even though we are undoubtedly inspired and influenced by the jazz and world music scene, we're not as much a part of that circle of musicians as we are funk and soul bands. In some respect, we've tried to distance ourselves from the "world music" label. We don't think it fits. That's not to say that we aren't interested in collaborating with some of the original players like [Ethiopia's] Mulatu Astatke. We call our sound Staten Island soul.
iTunes actually lists your albums in the rock category. Is it true you have bonafide metalheads in your ensemble?
As a matter of fact, we're all going to see [Virginia doom metal act] Pentagram tonight in Brooklyn! So, that only reinforces our metal inspirations. Plus we have a song [on Budos III] called "Black Venom," written by our trumpeter Andrew Greene. The name was inspired by Black Sabbath and Venom.
The Budos Band and hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan are both from Staten Island. Have you guys met each other?
Our guitar player Tom Brenneck was in El Michel's Affair and they were the backing band for Raekwon and a couple of the Wu-Tang guys for a short time. Recently someone did a mash-up of Wu-Tang and Budos songs that circulated around the blogs for a minute. There's never been any direct collaboration yet, even [though] we're [Wu Tang] fans and we feel there's a kinship there because of the shared Staten Island stomping grounds.
Both you and Wu-Tang have darker, edgier sound too.
Definitely. RZA's dark gritty production style is something that we admire and, in our own way, strive for.
Your song arrangements aren't exactly happy, feel good funk. It's not Kool & The Gang. Is your edginess a Staten Island thing?
We have a low tolerance for cheesy funk music. If we're rehearsing a song and it starts going [in a cheesy] direction, someone in the band will point it out. If I come up with a part that someone thinks it's awful then it's gone. We're all comfortable with being honest around each other and not taking things personal.
Who are some of your personal saxophone inspirations?
Fela Kuti's baritone saxophone player Lakan Animashaun really inspired me; he was Fela's primary player. Also Getachew Mekurya, who was the central player in the [Ethiopian '70s jazz-funk] Ethiopiques compilations. I've always been a big Cannonball Adderley fan too; I just love his huge sound.
You have a prominent Ethio Jazz influence on songs like "Raja Haje" [on Budos III]. Do you guys do covers of old East African funk songs?
No they're originals. The reason the titles sound African is because when the albums are done [and] it's time take the songs to Daptone, the titles always get changed [by the label] because the band's original titles songs reference things like Dungeons & Dragons and other silly topics. "Raja Haje" is a derivation of Naja Haje, meaning Egyptian cobra.
Your album covers feature scorpions, cobras and volcanoes. What's with all the dangerous themes?
We collaborate with Daptone Records on the covers. We like to have National Geographic magazine or school textbook-looking covers with an image that's subtly dangerous or threatening in some way. Not over the top, but a hint of danger.
Now that Daptone artists like Sharon Jones are more known, has that meant bigger opportunities for Budos Band too?
We've definitely seen more interest. The Daptone sound has definitely become more known over the years and as the trouble-making younger brother on the label, we've seen the benefits of that. Especially when Budos III came out last year, there were more opportunities for exposure and we were able to get on the road a lot, too, and get behind the record and play a lot of places we haven't played before.
How many members are in the touring band?
Nine or 10 players, depending on everyone's availability. We have pretty massive percussion section and ideally we try and play with all of them but sometimes one of them can't make it, so we'll play with nine. We try and keep our numbers manageable for touring purposes. Years ago we used to have 12 guys. Ten seems like a nice round number and we can all fit in one big van, whereas 12 seems to push it over the edge of reason. Ten [members] is on the fine line between chaos and barely not-chaos.
Do you bring a New York attitude to your shows?
Definitely. What it boils down to is that we're friendly guys, but when we play live like to take things up a notch. We were playing some hippie fest on the East Coast and definitely took it as our job to fuck with peoples' mellows. We were out to harsh mellows that day - in a playful way, not too aggressive.